The Loop

Strege: Tiger Says He's 'Good to Go'

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The winner of the U.S. Open often limps to the finish line, which does not suggest that Tiger Woods has an advantage this week, given the experience he has gained at limping in the last few months. To the contrary, it would seem to have put him at a disadvantage.

Woods said Tuesday that he has not walked 18 holes since the final round of the Masters in April, that it was only less than two weeks ago that he determined that his surgically-repaired left knee had improved enough to allow him to play in the Open that begins here Thursday on the South Course at Torrey Pines.

So there's no chance that he could win here, in this the first tournament he has played in two months. Or so conventional wisdom says.

"I've heard that before," he said, smiling.

Smart money would resist the temptation to pile up against Woods, of course, even as he revealed bit by bit that his knee is not 100 percent and that it altered his preparation for golf's most demanding test.

"Is it fully recovered?" he said. "Probably not. It's a little sore, but not anything that I haven't dealt with before."

Woods, who underwent surgery on his left knee two days after the Masters concluded, played nine holes Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. He was asked whether that was according to plan or the result of his knee.

"Both," he said. "It's because that's the way I was feeling, that's the way I was planning."

Woods over the years often spoke about a need to get tournament tough, which he acknowledges will be his foremost obstacle in attempting to win at Torrey Pines for the second time this year and the seventh time in nine years (he has won the Buick Invitational here six times).

"I wanted to play at Memorial, just for that reason," he said, "to get back and get used to the rhythm and the flow of competitive play, how I'm feeling, the shots, how I'm hitting, the tendencies, all the things leading up to the Open. That just wasn't the case. So that reality is out. So I just had to change my training a little bit and make sure I was ready for this one."

So, is he ready?

"I'm good to go. I plan on playing competitive. Come game time on Thursday, I'll be ready."

--*John Strege